Designing a Walkable City in the US

Between Salt Lake City and Provo, the Point is being designed as a walkable city.

Between Salt Lake City and Provo, the Point is being designed as a walkable city. Image: Pixabay

The walkability of a city is used to describe how pedestrian-friendly a city is. A walkable city is one where it is safe and easy to walk to goods and services. A walkable city is important, especially when we are trying to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, because it decreases the need for automobiles, slows down traffic, and provides citizens with alternative transportation options like walking or biking. Some of the most walkable cities in the world include Amsterdam, Paris, Vancouver, Hong Kong, and Venice, to name a few.

It takes a fair amount of planning to increase a city’s walkability, especially if designed for cars. In the United States, cars have influenced the planning of US cities and communities. The most car-dependent locations in the US are sprawling metropolitan areas with less developed public transportation systems.

One area in Utah is trying to move away from car dependence and create a new community that ranks high in walkability. Between Salt Lake City and Provo, the Point is a new community built on walkable, transit-oriented urbanism principles. This community will be a place where residents can meet all their daily needs within a 15-minute walk.

Utah residents expressed interest in creating a space prioritising bike and pedestrian infrastructure and direct access to open parks and spaces. Additionally, residents hope that the Point will highlight the unique ecosystems of Utah and make these spaces easily accessible.

The designers are creating a walkable version of a traditional city grid, moving away from large urban blocks, which Salt Lake City has the largest blocks in the United States. The Point will be designed with smaller blocks intertwined with greenways and linear open space that allow for better mobility.

To create a community with more walkable opportunities, the design team for the Point plans to reduce lane widths on existing roads, reduce pedestrian crossing time, and create landscaped medians, which create an area of refuge for pedestrians. Moreover, the team plans to adjust the overall road network to reduce traffic loads at certain intersections. These changes can reduce overall traffic speeds and create safer conditions for bikers and pedestrians.

The creation of the Point is unique, as the area used to create this new walkable community used to be one of the state’s largest prisons. When the prison was decommissioned, 600 acres of land were made available for redevelopment, which allows the Point’s design team a blank canvas for developing a walkable city.

However, creating a walkable city in existing urban areas isn’t impossible. It requires collaboration with city and state agencies, urban designers, engineers, and community members. Creating a walkable city is also more economically productive and is less expensive to run than car-dependent suburban areas. This can mean more money for parks, schools and affordable housing. And to top it all off, a walkable city means a healthier community and a healthier environment.

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